Placer admits deputy’s fault in North Auburn patrol car crash

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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More than two years after a sheriff’s office patrol car crashed into the side of an SUV at a busy North Auburn intersection, Placer County is admitting the deputy was at fault. In admissions from the county made public Wednesday by San Francisco attorney Michael B. Moore – who is representing an Auburn woman seeking damages for injuries received in the collision – Deputy Jack Hickey is being blamed for the May 19, 2009, crash. The county admission, approved by Undersheriff Devon Bell and drafted by Deputy County Counsel David Huskey on Friday, states Hickey’s “lack of due care” and negligence were responsible for the accident. Answering written questions posed by Moore, the county stated it is admitting full liability for the crash and “no longer claims any comparative fault on the part of Julie DeWitt.” “The CHP did a thorough investigation and found the deputy to be 100 percent at fault and Julie to be without fault,” Moore said. “Independent eyewitnesses each described the deputy activating his lights and siren just as he entered the intersection and crashing into Julie’s car without time for her to react.” Huskey said Wednesday that the main focus for the county is now on damages, with serious questions surrounding the nature and extent of injuries DeWitt is purported to have received in the crash. Moore contends in court documents that DeWitt will require disc surgery at two levels as a result of the accident. The California Government Code immunizes Hickey for his driving of an emergency vehicle and he has been dismissed as a defendant. But the code also specifies that the county can be held liable for his driving. Moore released the county statement of admissions after receiving it in the mail Monday. He also provided the Journal with a full accident report completed by the California Highway Patrol. DeWitt, 37, was driving north on Highway 49 when her SUV was broadsided by a patrol car driven by Hickey as it moved through the busy crossroads along Bell Road toward Interstate 80. According to the Highway Patrol report, Hickey caused the collision by failing to exercise due caution when crossing a large and busy intersection. “(Hickey) should have ensured that all approaching traffic that was close enough to constitute a hazard had yielded the right-of-way to his emergency vehicle’s lights and siren prior to moving his vehicle into the path of approaching vehicles,” the Highway Patrol report stated. Witnesses who saw the accident were quoted telling an investigator that the deputy “was driving like an idiot” and was “reckless” as he proceeded through the crossroads. Another witness – a retired Davis police officer – was quoted as “reluctantly stating” she believed the deputy was at fault for coming through the intersection too fast and not clearing each lane as he proceeded through. The case is slated to go to trial in early November if the two sides can’t agree on a settlement.